ACCRA Ghana's main opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo launched a blistering attack on the government's economic record on Sunday as he released his party's manifesto at a mass rally ahead of an election on Dec. 7.
Akufo-Addo said President John Mahama had squandered the wealth the country has amassed since it began producing oil in 2010 and is out of touch with people who have struggled economically since he came to power in 2012.
"President Mahama might not recognise the suffering of the people of Ghana and might not be hearing their cries because he has sadly insulated himself from the reality on the ground," he told a cheering crowd at the Trade Fair in the capital Accra.
"We are offering solutions that will take this country out of the crisis in which we find ourselves," he said.
Manifestos are key to elections in Ghana, a stable democracy where parties place emphasis on competing policy agendas and ideological differences. Akufo-Addo said his New Patriotic Party (NPP) stood for business and the free market.
Mahama is expected to face a tight contest against Akufo-Addo as he stands for a second and final four-year term.
At the event in Accra, senior NPP officials outlined policy proposals and Akufo-Addo focused on what most observers say is his party's strongest suit, exposing the economic problems Ghana has faced since Mahama came to power.
In that time, Ghana has lost its reputation as one of Africa's economic stars and inflation, the budget deficit and debt have risen sharply while the cedi currency has lost value.
The country has faced a slump in global prices for its exports of gold and oil. Since 2015 the government has also followed a $918 million aid deal with the International Monetary Fund to restore economic stability. Ghana is also the world's number two cocoa producer.
Mahama launched his party's manifesto last month and said the government has taken tough decisions to tackle the economic crisis. He said GDP growth will rise to 8 percent next year from a forecast 4.1 percent this year.
Akufo-Addo was foreign minister and attorney general during the NPP's eight years in power from 2001, a time when the country made significant strides economically and discovered oil. He lost elections in 2008 and 2012 and senior party officials say this year's vote will be his last chance at power.
(Reporting by Christian Akorlie; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Emma Farge and)